Leaked Trump administration document undermines assault on renewable energy, support for coal and nukes

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

There’s a fascinating story emerging from the Trump administration’s Department of Energy — you know the agency headed by that dancin’ fool and fossil fuel cheerleader Rick Perry. According to a leaked DOE draft report obtained by Bloomberg, many of the administration’s claims about renewable energy and fossil fuels are all wet. Here’s Think Progress climate policy expert, Dr. Joe Romm in a post from late yesterday:

On Saturday, we reported that a leaked draft of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid study obtained by Bloomberg debunks his attack on renewable energy.

ThinkProgress has now obtained a copy of that draft, and it has many more surprises?—?or, rather, findings that are fairly well known to energy experts but may come as an unpleasant surprise to Perry and the White House. For instance, a large fraction of America’s aging fleet of coal and nuclear plants are simply not economic to operate anymore.

The July draft, which ThinkProgress received from multiple sources, is here, so the public will be able to compare the final “politically-approved” version with the draft prepared by Department of Energy (DOE) staff. It is widely feared Perry’s team of Trump appointees will simply erase the the study’s inconvenient truths before it final report is released to the public.

The release of the study has been delayed several weeks?—?and the findings in the draft might explain why. The study was specifically requested to back up Perry’s claims that EPA regulations, along with renewable power sources like solar and wind power, were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability by forcing the premature closure of “baseload” (24–7) power sources like coal and nuclear.

But the leaked July draft concludes the grid is as reliable than ever….

The bottom line is that “as long as natural gas prices stay down and there is an oversupply of energy in many hours of the day and year [because of zero-marginal-cost renewable power] the typical nuclear plant will lose money on every kWh produced, and not be able to make it up on volume.”

As an aside, if existing nuclear power plants are unprofitable, it should be pretty obvious that building a new nuclear power plant, which costs many billions of dollars?—?makes no economic sense at all.

Similarly, coal is also hurt by its high marginal cost: “[Coal] plants that have retired are old and inefficient units that were not recovering their operations and fuel costs, much less capital cost recovery….”

It’s really no surprise that DOE staff would conclude renewables are not threatening grid reliability. After all, many countries around the world, such as Germany, have integrated far higher percentages of solar and wind than we have, while maintaining high reliability.

The only surprise remaining is how many of these findings Trump’s political appointees will erase.

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